Bird photographer's fury after police defend ‘terrorist’ stop (update with pics)

A photographer is fuming after police chiefs stoutly defended officers who stopped and searched him on suspicion he was a terrorist while photographing birds.

Bird terror pic

One of the pictures the student was taking at the time he was stopped by plain-clothes officers

A photographer is fuming after police chiefs stoutly defended officers who stopped and searched him on suspicion he was a terrorist while photographing birds.

The Metropolitan Police has revealed that the photographer – a student from Pakistan – happened to be near a Territorial Army (TA) base in East London when he was stopped on 3 February.

However, speaking today, the photo enthusiast said he was completely unaware there was a TA base in the vicinity and that officers failed to tell him this at the time.

‘All they said was they thought I was photographing a school,’ said the 21-year-old, who was taking pictures in the street where he lives and does not want his name published.

The photography enthusiast was using a new DSLR when he was stopped under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act - a law that can only be enforced if a police officer 'reasonably suspects' a person to be a terrorist.

He was stopped by plain-clothes police officers who were working undercover to target local burglars, the Met has told AP.

However, when they checked the display on his camera, they quickly realised he had only been photographing birds and let him go.

It remains unclear, however, why taking pictures of a school heightened officers’ suspicion the photographer may be a terrorist.

Given the serious nature of a Section 43 stop, Amateur Photographer called on police to issue a statement.

After numerous calls to the Met over the past week, a spokesman told us last night: ‘An officer stopped a 21-year-old man under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act for taking photos of a school on Portway, E15, also in the proximity of a Territorial Army base.

‘After the stop the officer was satisfied that the individual was not committing an offence.’

The spokesman added: ‘The officer felt he had reasonable grounds for a stop.’

In its statement the Met added: ‘Officers have the power to stop and search a person who they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

‘The purpose of the stop and search is to establish whether that person has anything in their possession which may constitute an offence under the Terrorism Act 2000.

‘Officers have the power to view digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras to discover whether the images constitute evidence that the person is involved in terrorism.

‘Officers do not have the power to delete digital images or destroy film at any point during the search.’

The spokesman told us that officers are regularly briefed on the guidelines they should follow, through training sessions and face-to-face meetings.

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